Christmas - Cooking Update

This marks the first year that we have encouraged that kids to give gifts to each other. They are all making things for each other, which is really great. I think I have also mentioned that we celebrate the twelve days of Christmas. In our house this means that a few gifts appear under the tree every morning. Sometimes they are for one person or all from one person or all for the kids or all for the adults.
This year Lucy decided to bake her gifts for her siblings. So on the second day of Christmas we worked together to bake her gift to Peter, which he received on the following day.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (with Sprinkles - very important)
my own adaptation of several other recipes
makes roughly 2 dozen cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks or 12 Tbsp) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
scant 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 F.
  • In a small bowl, mix flour and baking soda together.
  • In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars, and vanilla until fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.
  • Gradually beat in the flour.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Drop dough by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Place sprinkles in a small bowl or teacup.
  • Drop each mound of cookie dough into the sprinkles and then return it to the cookie sheet, sprinkle-side up.
  • Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, depending on size and preference.

Clara and I have been feeling a little under the weather lately, so tonight David and I made chicken noodle soup following the recipe found in the latest issue of Cook's Illustrated. Boy was it good!

Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup
from Cook's Illustrated; number 96, page 21
serves 4 to 6

1 Tbsp oil
1 pound ground chicken
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium celery rib, chopped
1 quart water (4 cups)
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth (8 cups)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, cut in half crosswise

3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 small onion, quartered and sliced thin
2 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and chopped into 3/4-inch pieces
1 medium celery rib, halved lengthwise and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch dice
4 ounces egg noodles
4-6 Swiss chard leaves, ribs removed, torn into 1-inch pieces OR 1/2 bunch spinach trimmed and torn into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper

For the Stock:
  • Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add ground chicken, onion, carrot, and celery.
  • Cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is no longer pink.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low. Add water, broth, bay leaves, salt, and chicken breasts; cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Remove lid, increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
  • Once liquid is boiling, transfer chicken breasts to large plate and set aside.
  • Continue to cook stock for 20 minutes, adjusting heat to maintain gentle boil.
  • Strain stock through fine-mesh strainer, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
  • Allow liquid to settle about 5 minutes and skim off fat.

For the Soup:
  • Return stock to Dutch oven set over medium-high heat.
  • In a small bowl mix cornstarch and water until a smooth slurry forms. Add this to the stock and bring to a gentle boil.
  • Add onion, carrots, celery, and potato and cook until potato pieces are almost tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add egg noodles and cook until all vegetables and noodles are tender, about 5 more minutes.
  • Meanwhile, remove skin and bones from cooked chicken breasts. Shred meat with fingers.
  • Add shredded chicken, Swiss chard*, and parsley to soup and cook until heated through.
  • Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

*We couldn't find Swiss chard in the shops, so we substituted spinach. And, instead of adding the spinach directly to the pot of soup, we put a handful of torn leaves in the bottom of each bowl and topped it with the steaming soup.

Then, after the kids were in bed, I went back down into the kitchen to brave the cooking mess that needed cleaning (Lucy and I baked her gift to Clara this afternoon - more on that later). It was bad enough that I needed a little support via a Jack and Ginger.

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